The first major project by director Grant Sputore celebrated its premiere in January at the Sundance Film Festival, and soon "I Am Mother" will also hit German screens. Whether the science fiction film is worth the trip to the cinema, reveals our criticism.
The Story of "I Am Mother"
One day has passed since the entire human race was wiped out. In a hermetically sealed bunker "mother" comes to life. With the help of 63,000 embryos stored in the station, the robot is to initiate the resettlement of the earth – and thus ensure the survival of the human race.
But because even artificial mothers have to learn their craft first, "mother" begins with a single female child. "Daughter" grows in the coming years to a smart young woman. She learns from her mechanical protector everything from ballet and origami to advanced engineering and complicated ethics.
Then suddenly a strange, injured woman stands at the gates of the plant – and brings with their mere arrival the entire world view of "daughter" out of balance. What really happened to the world out there? Is "mother" really as good a protector as she pretends?
Refined chamber play full of twists
What follows is a clever chamber play full of twists. Especially when the audience thinks they have seen through the true reasons behind and motives, the next turn turns everything upside down again. Is "mother" evil? Does the stranger really mean "daughter"? Again and again, new scraps of information ensure that the alliances are shifting, and emotionally, not only is "daughter" constantly having to realign itself.
But what sci-fi fans should not expect is big action. The few corresponding scenes can be found especially in the last third of the film and even there are few and far between. The horror manifests itself mostly in subliminal messages and small moments of tension between "mother", "daughter" and the strange woman. And even these messages and moments are often as fleeting and elusive as the various implicit questions that I Am Mother devotes. Which is due to the almost unreally quiet voice of "mother".
Initially, the harmony between "mother" and "daughter" is unclouded.
"Mother" is usually the calm in robot person …
… until the strange woman shows up.
Ethical questions keep the audience on their toes
The viewer has to be focused throughout the movie so as not to miss any of the many interesting aspects. Director Grant Sputore and his team have peppered the plot with implicit questions and ethical-philosophical thought-provoking games that challenge viewers.
This starts with the question of whether a robot can be suitable as a mother substitute. Should "Daughter" trust the machine that has cared for her all her life? Or the only other person she has ever met in her life?
Do heat pads make a robot substitute for the mother?
How many emotions is an artificial intelligence capable of?
Is "mother" maybe the bad guy?
With what complicated problems "daughter" has to deal with to insist on "mother" as a good and ethically valuable person, suggests a lesson in which we look over the duo's shoulder. Here, the makers present us with a modified version of the moral thought experiment trolley problem , without ultimately providing a clear answer. The viewer should find this for himself – a concept that the film consistently practices.
These actors shine in "I Am Mother"
A big theatrical challenge had to be mastered by Hollywood newcomer Clara Rugaard ("Good Favor") in "I Am Mother". Her character "Daughter" serves in the film as an identification figure for the viewer. He almost never has a knowledge advantage and has to put together the many puzzle pieces together with the movie character.
A central role that brings high expectations. However, Rugaard easily manages to cast a spell over the audience. Her performance can be compared to that of Oscar winner Hilary Swank ("The Homesman"), who is seen in the film as the foreign woman. In addition, the chemistry between the young actress and the Hollywood star is right. This is also necessary in order to credibly convey the burgeoning confidence that "daughter" has in the face of the woman.
Clara Rugaard is at the heart of the story.
The chemistry between Rugaard and Hilary Swank is right.
And then of course there is "mother". The robot was staged by the New Zealand effects company Weta Workshop ( "The Lord of the Rings" ). Not just virtually on the computer, but also with the help of a real mobile costume. Responsible for the implementation was Project Supervisor Luke Hawker, who is also in costume in the film. As a spokesperson for the English original, the Australian actress Rose Byrne has been committed, which does a great job with regard to the emotional component of "mother".
Conclusion: atmospherically dense sci-fi film to think along
With "I Am Mother" director Grant Sputore made an impressive debut. Cinemagoers expect an atmospheric dense sci-fi film, which comes along without much action, but with all the more profound questions. Diverse twists provide always new surprises and encourage constant reflection.
The action does not provide definitive answers to the questions raised, but the creators manage to captivate the viewer beyond the credits. Even hours after my visit to the cinema I was mentally still at "I Am Mother". A nice change to the loud effects cinema – and an absolute recommendation for those who are not afraid of demanding films.